Male names of literary origin, N–Z

American aviation pioneer Orville Wright, 1871–1948

Nemo means “nobody” in Latin. Jules Verne created it for the captain of Nautilus in his 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Nerle is a character in L. Frank Baum’s 1903 novel The Enchanted Island of Yew. It may be based on Merle, a variant of Merrill or Muriel (“pleasant hill” or “bright sea”).

Oberon is the King of the Fairies in Shakespeare’s 1595 play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s based on Norman French name Auberon, which in turn derives from Ancient Germanic Alberich (elf power).

Orville was coined by 18th century writer Fanny Burney, who may have meant it to mean “golden city” in French.

Othello may be a diminutive of Italian name Otho, of unknown etymology. Shakespeare famously used it as the title character of his 1603 tragedy.

Pantagruel is one of the title characters of 16th century French writer François Rabelais’s The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel series. It derives from Greek pantes (all) and Hagarene gruel (thirsty). Pantagruel was born during a great drought. Rabelais invented hundreds of new words in these novels, based on Ancient Greek. Some of them became part of the French language.

Percival was created by 12th century French poet Chrétien de Troyes for Perceval, the Story of the Grail, which follows a Knight of the Round Table. It was probably based on Welsh name Peredur, which may mean “hard spears.” The spelling was possibly changed to resemble Old French percer val (to pierce the valley).

Pirkka was created by Finnish poet Eino Leino for “Orjan Poka. It derives from pirkkalaiset (a Medieval Finnish group who controlled taxation in Lapland).

Radames is a character in the 1871 opera Aida. Since it’s set in Ancient Egypt, librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni may have included the element Ra (Sun) to sound plausibly Egyptian.

Radúz is a rare Czech name which was created by writer Julius Zeyer for his 1898 play Radúz and Mahulena. It derives from rád (glad, happy).

Ruslan is Russian, Chechen, Ingush, Avar, Tatar, Circassian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Bashkir, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Uzbek, Armenian, and Ossetian. It was used by great Russian poet Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin for his 1820 work Ruslan and Lyudmila, based on the name of Tatar and Russian folk hero Yeruslan Lazarevich. Its ultimate origin is Tatar name Uruslan, possibly from Turkic arslan (lion).

1887 illustration of Ruslan and Lyudmila

Saridan is a king in the 12th century Georgian epic poem The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, by Shota Rustaveli. It’s unclear which Persian root he based it off of, but possible candidates include srudan (to sing, to recite) and srayidan (to protect). Unlike many other names in the poem, Saridan has never been very common.

Sémaphore means “semaphore” (a visual signalling system) in French, ultimately derived from Ancient Greek roots sema (sign, token, mark) and phero (to carry, to bear). Thus, it roughly means “sign-bearer.” This is the name of a character in Franco–Belgian comic Cubitus. Sémaphore owns canine protagonist Cubitus.

Siyavash is a prince in 11th century Persian epic The Shahnameh. The name means “possessing black stallions” in Avestan.

Tuovi (a unisex name) was invented by Finnish writer Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen for his 1859 novel Pohjan-Piltti. It derives from village Tuovila (village of Tove).

Urizen was created by English poet William Blake for the personification of conventional reason and law. It’s a play on “your reason,” and possibly also derived from Greek horizein (horizon).

Vahur means “brave” in Estonian. The name was invented by writer Edward Börnhohe for his 1880 novel Tasuja. I have a character by this name.

Vambola is the title character of a novel by Estonian writer Andres Saal. It may be derived from Varbola Castle or the Old Estonian word vambas (mace).

Siyavash, Copyright Aryzad at Wiki Commons

Winnetou is an Apache chief in several of German novelist Karl May’s books. It may mean “burning water.”

Ylermi is another name created by Eino Leino, for the protagonist of his poem Helkavirsiä I.

Yorick is derived from Danish and Norwegian nickname Jørg (i.e., George). Shakespeare used it for a dead court jester in Hamlet (1600).

Yvain is another creation of Chrétien de Troyes, based on Welsh name Owain (possibly a form of Eugene, “well-born”).

Zalán was created by Hungarian writer Mihály Vörösmarty for his 1823 epic Zalán Futása. The name may come from Hungary’s Zala region, which in turn takes its name from the Zala River.

Zorro means “fox” in Spanish, and became famous as the name of a character created by Johnston McCulley.

Male names of literary origin, G-M

FYI: If you’re wondering why I’ve barely mentioned any Arthurian names in this series, it’s because I’m saving them for a future post on that subject only.

Sorry I couldn’t find a bigger pool of names! The relative dearth of literary male vs. female names is evidence of how, until fairly recently, people generally have been more creative with female names.

U.S. comedic actor Buster Keaton as Hamlet, 1922

Gareth first appeared in Thomas Malory’s 15th century collection of Arthurian legends, Le Morte d’Arthur. It’s based on Gahariet, the name of a similar Knight of the Round Table in French legends. This name, like many others in those stories, may also have a Welsh origin. If so, it may be derived from gwaredd (gentleness).

Gavroche was created by Victor Hugo for a character in Les Misérables (1862). Because of the fictional Gavroche, this has become slang for “street urchin” and “mischievous child.”

Goldmund is one of two title characters of Swiss-German writer Hermann Hesse’s amazing 1930 novel Narcissus and Goldmund. It’s meant to mean “gold mouth,” from German gold and mund, but it can also mean “golden protection.” Mund means “mouth” in modern German, but “protection” in Old High German.

Hamlet is an Anglicised form of Danish name Amleth, famously created for Shakespeare’s 1600 play of the same name. For whatever reason, this name is also used in Armenian.

Hareton may have been created by Emily Brontë for a character in her 1847 novel Wuthering Heights. It may also derive from an English place name meaning “hare town.”

Heathcliff was invented for the male protagonist of Wuthering Heights, and has the self-explanatory meaning “from the heath cliff” or “from the cliff with heath.” A heath is a shrubland with low-growing, open, woody plant life, mostly in acidic soils.

Sir Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in Wuthering Heights (1939)

Indulis started as a diminutive of Latvian name Indriķis (home ruler; i.e., Henry), but is now given as a full name in its own right. Playwright and poet Rainis (a pseudonym of Jānis Pliekšāns) used it on one of the title characters of his 1911 play Indulis un Ārija.

Keimo was invented by legendary Finnish writer Aleksis Kivi in the 19th century, inspired by the village of Keimola.

Kordian is the protagonist of Polish writer Juliusz Słowacki’s famous 1833 play. I’m going to give this name to a till-now minor background character who’s soon to become an important secondary character, and also gave it as a middle name to another character. It’s derived from the Latin cordis (heart). This name is so romantic and beautiful!

Lesław was created by Polish writer Roman Zmorski for his 1847 poetic novel of the same name, derived from Lech (the legendary founder of the Polish nation) and the root sław (glory).

Lestat was created by Anne Rice for a character in her Vampire Chronicles series, which débuted in 1976. She may have intended it to look derived from Occitan or Old French l’estat (the status, state), though Lestat’s name was originally Lestan, in honour of her husband Stan. While writing the first book, she accidentally wrote the name wrong, and only noticed later.

U.S. President Andrew Johnson (left) as Mercutio, 1868 political cartoon by Alfred Waud

Malvolio means “ill will” in Italian. It was created by Shakespeare for a character in his 1602 play Twelfth Night.

Marganore was invented by Italian writer Ludovico Ariosto for his 1516 poem Orlando Furioso (published in its complete form in 1532). Fittingly, since it belongs to a tyrant, the name derives from Greek words margaino (to rage, to be mad) and anor (man). Thus, it means “madman.”

Mercutio is a diminutive of Mercury, probably ultimately from Latin mercari (to trade) or merces (wages). Shakespeare used it for a character in Romeo and Juliet (1596).

Male names of literary origin, A-F

18th century miniature of Tariel and Avtandil meeting in a cave

Aminta was coined by Italian poet Torquato Tasso for his 1573 play of the same name. It’s derived from Greek name Amyntas, from amyntor (defender).

Amiran is the hero of Medieval Georgian poet Moses of Khoni’s great romance epic Amiran-Darejaniani. The name is derived from mythical Georgian hero Amirani, of unknown etymology. I have a character by this name, who breaks out of prison after four years of Soviet torture and walks all the way into Iran, over the Alborz Mountains, to find his wife Alina.

Astrophel was coined by 16th century British poet Sir Philip Sidney for his sonnet collection Astrophel and Stella. The name probably means “star-lover,” from Greek roots aster (star) and philos (lover, friend).

Avtandil is another Georgian name, created by Shota Rustaveli for his 12th century national epic The Knight in the Panther’s Skin. It’s derived from Persian roots aftab (sunshine) and dil (heart).

Bayard is a magical bay horse owned by Renaud de Montauban and his brothers in Medieval French poetry. It derives from Old French baiart (bay-coloured).

Caspian is a character in C.S. Lewis’s famous Chronicles of Narnia series. Caspian, who débuts in the fourth book, is Narnia’s rightful king who’s been forced into exile by his evil Uncle Miraz. The name probably comes from that of the Caspian Sea, which in turn derives from the city of Qazvin, Iran, named for the ancient Kaspian tribe.

Cedric was created by Sir Walter Scott for a character in his 1819 novel Ivanhoe. He based it on Cerdic, the first historically-verified King of Wessex (and my 48-greats-grandfather). The name is possibly connected to Brythonic name Caratacos, which comes from Celtic root car (love).

Lithograph of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, date unknown

Csongor (CHON-gor) was created by Hungarian writer Mihály Vörösmarty for his 1830 play Csongor és Tünde. It probably derives from a Turkic root meaning “falcon.”

Cymbeline is the title character of a 1609 Shakespeare play about a mythological king based on Cunobelinus, a British chieftain who’s said to have ruled in the first century of the Common Era. It may mean “hound of Belenus,” from Old Celtic root koun (hound) and Belenus, a Gaulish god of the Sun often equated with Apollo. Belenus may mean “bright, brilliant” in Old Celtic.

Cyrano is famous as the title character of French writer Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac. The name may come from Cyrene, the Latinized name of Ancient Greek city Kyrene (now in Libya), which was named after Queen Kyrene of Thessaly. It ultimately means “sovereign queen.” Rostand’s character is based on a real person, 17th century satirist Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac.

Dorian was created by Oscar Wilde for his 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, derived either from Ancient Greek tribe the Dorians or Irish surname Doran (descendant of Deoradhán). The name Deoradhán in turn means “wanderer, exile.”

Ebenezer means “stone of help” in Hebrew. This is used as a place name in the Bible, but most famously used as a person’s name in Charles Dickens’s 1843 novel A Christmas Carol. This is also the real name of next-oldest child Ben Pepper in Margaret Sidney’s Five Little Peppers series. Ms. Sidney used a lot of strange or pretentious names.

Amato as Cyrano de Bergerac, 1910

Etzel is a character in the great Medieval German saga Die Nibelungenlied. It’s a form of Attila, as Etzel is a fictionalised version of Attila the Hun. The name may mean “little father,” from Gothic root atta (father) and a diminutive suffix.

Figaro was created by French playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais for the protagonist of his plays The Barber of Seville (1775), The Marriage of Figaro (1784), and The Guilty Mother (1792). The name may be derived from the French phrase fils Caron, son of Caron (the playwright’s nickname).

Florimond is the name of the prince in some versions of Sleeping Beauty. It possibly derives from Latin florens (flourishing, prosperous) and Ancient Germanic mund (protection).

Female names of literary origin, N-Z

U.S. actor Norma Shearer, 1902–1983

Nélida was created by French writer Marie d’Agoult for her semi-autobiographical 1846 novel of the same name, which she wrote under the pseudonym Daniel Stern. It’s probably an anagram of the pen name Daniel.

Nestan-Darejan was created by great Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli for the famous 12th century national epic The Knight in the Panther’s Skin (lit. One with the Skin of a Tiger). He coined it from Persian phrase nist andar jahan, “unlike any other in the world.” Nestan-Darejan is a princess.

Norma is the protagonist of Italian writer Felice Romani’s 1831 opera of the same name, possibly based on Latin norma (rule). It may also have been intended as a feminine form of Ancient Germanic name Norman (northman; i.e., Viking).

Nydia is a blind flower seller in British writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1834 novel The Last Days of Pompeii, which was later made into an Italian silent film. It may be based on Latin nidus (nest).

Ophelia as depicted inThe girlhood of Shakespeare’s heroines in a series of tales, 1881

Ophelia was probably created by 15th century Italian poet Jacopo Sannazaro for a character in his poem Arcadia, then later used by Shakespeare in 1600’s Hamlet. It derives from Greek ophelos (help).

Ornella was created by Italian writer Gabriele d’Annunzio for the 1904 novel La Figlia di Jorio (The Daughter of Jorio), derived from Tuscan ornello (flowering ash tree).

Pamela was created by English poet Sir Philip Sydney for the 16th century long pastoral romance poem The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, possibly intended to mean “all sweetness,” from Greek pan (all) and meli (honey). This name exploded in popularity during the 1940s and stayed on the U.S. Top 100 till 1976.

Perdita was created by Shakespeare for his 1610 play A Winter’s Tale, from Latin perditus (lost).

Pippi was created by Karin Lindgren, daughter of Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren, for the title character of the Pippi Longstocking series. The first book was published in 1945. Her full name is Pippilotta.

Ronja was created by Astrid Lindgren for Ronja the Robber’s Daughter (1981), derived from Juronjaure, a Swedish lake.

Sandra was introduced to the Anglophone world by English writer George Meredith, who used it on the protagonist of his 1864 novel Emilia in England, reissued in 1887 as Sandra Belloni.

Scarlett, from a surname originally bestowed upon sellers or makers of scarlet cloth, possibly derives from Persian saghrilat. Just about everyone knows Scarlett came to attention as a forename thanks to the protagonist of Margaret Mitchell’s historical saga Gone with the Wind (1936).

Stella means “star” in Latin. This name was created by Sir Philip Sidney for the protagonist of his 1580s sonnet collection Astrophel and Stella.

Tímea was created by Hungarian writer Mór Jókai for his 1873 novel The Golden Man, probably derived from Greek euthymia (good spirits, cheerfulness).

Tinatin was created by aforementioned Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli for The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, possibly derived from Georgian word sinatle (light). Tinatin is the Queen of Arabia, and inherits the throne as the sole child of King Rostevan.

Titania was possibly created by Shakespeare for his 1595 play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Titania is Queen of the Fairies. It may derive from Latin name Titanius (of the Titans).

Tünde was created by Hungarian writer Mihály Vörösmarty for his 1830 play Csongor és Tünde, derived from tündér (fairy).

Undine was created by Medieval writer Paracelsus, derived from Latin unda (wave). He used it to refer to female water spirits.

Detail of The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania, Joseph Noel Patton, 1849

Valmai means “like May” in Welsh. It was created by Welsh writer Allen Raine for her 1899 romance novel By Berwen Banks. Allen Raine was the understandable pseudonym of Anne Adalisa Beynon Puddicombe.

Vanessa was created by British writer Jonathan Swift for his 1726 poem Cadenus and Vanessa, derived from rearranging the first syllables of the name of his friend Esther Vanhomrigh.

Veslemøy means “little girl” in Norwegian. It was created by writer Arne Garborg for the title character of his 1895 poem Haugtussa.

Viviette was created by British writer William John Locke for the title character of his 1910 novel. It’s a diminutive of Vivienne (alive).

Wendy was created by Scottish writer J.M. Barrie for his famous 1904 play Peter Pan, derived from his nickname Fwendy (i.e., Friend). Prior to Peter Pan, it was rarely used as a possible nickname for Welsh names starting with Gwen (blessed, fair, white).

Zerbinette was created by French writer Molière for his 1671 play Les Fourberies de Scapin (The Deceits of Scapin).

Female names of literary origin, G-M

I belatedly realised I left out three names in the first post in this series:

Daiva was created by Lithuanian writer Vydūnas and possibly based on a Sanskrit word meaning “destiny.”

Dalma was created by Hungarian poet Mihály Vörösmarty for his 1825 epic poem Zalán Futása. Though the original Dalma was male, later writers used it for female characters.

Etelka was created by Hungarian writer András Dugonics for the protagonist of his 1788 novel of the same name. It’s derived from male name Etele, which is possibly a form of Attila (little father).

Image of Jessica, from The Graphic Gallery of Shakespeare’s Heroines, 1896, by Luke Fildes

Gloriana is the title character of Edmund Spenser’s 1590 epic poem The Faerie Queene, an allegory of Queen Elizabeth I. It’s an elaborated form of the Latin word gloria (glory).

Grażyna means “beautiful” in Lithuanian. It was created by great Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz for the title character of an 1823 poem.

Gyneth is King Arthur’s daughter in Sir Walter Scott’s 1813 poem The Bridal of Triermain. It’s possibly a variation of Welsh name Gwyneth, either from Gwynedd (the name of a region in Wales, perhaps derived from Old Welsh name Cunedda) or the word gwyn (fair, blessed, white).

Haidee was created by Lord Byron for a character in the 1819 poem Don Juan, possibly derived from Greek word aidoios (reverent, modest).

Imogen is a princess in Shakespeare’s 1609 play Cymbeline, based on legendary character Innogen, which in turn is probably derived from Gaelic inghean (maiden). Her name was misprinted and never corrected.

Janice is an elaborated form of Jane created by Paul Leicester Ford for his 1899 novel Janice Meredith.

Jessica was created by Shakespeare for Shylock’s apostate daughter in The Merchant of Venice (1596), probably based on Biblical name Yiskah (to behold).

Jolánka is the protagonist of Hungarian writer András Dugonics’s 1803 novel Jólánka, Etelkának Leánya. It may have come from jóleán (good girl) or Yolanda (violet).

Juliet is an Anglicized form of respectively French and Italian nicknames Juliette and Giulietta. It was first used in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1596).

Kinscő was created by Hungarian writer Mór Jokai in 1872’s The Novel of the Next Century, derived from kincs (treasure).

Lalage is a character in one of Roman poet Horace’s odes, derived from Greek lalageo (to prattle, babble).

Lalla is the protagonist of Thomas Moore’s 1817 poem Lalla Rookh, derived from Persian laleh (tulip).

Layla means “night” in Arabic, and was used in 7th century romantic poems. The variation Leila was used in several of Lord Byron’s poems.

Loredana is a character in French writer George Sand’s 1833 novel Mattea, possibly based on Venetian surname Loredan and ultimately place name Loreo.

Lorna was created by R.D. Blackmore for his 1869 novel Lorna Doone, based on Scottish place name Lorne and possibly ultimately legendary king Loarn mac Eirc of Dál Riata.

Lucasta was created by poet Richard Lovelace for a 1649 poetry collection of the same name, dedicated to his love Lucasta, Lucy Sacheverel. He nicknamed her lux casta (pure light).

Lucinda was created by Miguel Cervantes for a character in 1605’s Don Quixote, an elaboration of Lucia, ultimately derived from Latin lux (light).

Magnhild derives from Old Norse magn (strong, mighty) and hildr (battle). This is the title character of Norwegian writer Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson’s 1877 novel.

Malvina was created by 18th century poet James MacPherson for his Ossian poems, possibly intended to mean “smooth brow” in Gaelic.

Mahulena was created by Czech writer Julius Zeyer for his 1898 play Radúz and Mahulena, possibly derived from Magdalena.

Miranda, from The Graphic Gallery of Shakespeare’s Heroines

Mavis was first used as a personal name in a character in British writer Marie Corelli’s 1895 novel The Sorrows of Satan. It comes from a bird also known as a song thrush, ultimately from Old French mauvis (unknown etymology).

Melantha may be a portmanteau of Mel (from names such as Melissa and Melanie) and suffix antha, from Greek anthos (flower). John Dryden used it for a character in his 1672 play Marriage à la Mode.

Mélisande is the French form of Millicent (strong work), used in Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1893 play Pelléas et Mélisande.

Minea was created by Finnish writer Mika Waltari for his 1945 hist-fic The Egyptian, possibly based on Greek name Minos (king).

Miranda was created by Shakespeare for the protagonist of The Tempest (1611), derived from Latin mirandus (wonderful, admirable).

Mirèio is an Occitan name first used by French writer Frédéric Mistral in the 1859 poem of the same name, possibly derived from Occitan mirar (to admire).

Moema means “lies” in Tupí, an indigenous Brazilian language. Poet Santa Rita Durão used it in his 1781 poem Caramuru.

Myra was created by 17th century poet Sir Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke, possibly based on Latin myrra (myrrh), or an anagram of Mary. This is also the name of an ancient city of Anatolia.